Maggie Achey

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My Internship

One of the most memorable experiences of my time abroad was my internship at The Writers’ Guild of Great Britain. This experience gave me a more comprehensive view of professional writing as I am interned at a union that represents writers on a broad spectrum, including writers involved with books, film, television, radio, theatre, and video games. I think that I grew both academically and emotionally through the negotiation of British culture and the application of my studies in school. I have been waiting to talk about this experience in the blog posts and think it fits well in this blog because not only did I learn through experience, but I also took a class about the internship through while abroad.  The class focused on translating the experiences into meaningful conversation and hard skills for our resumes.

Navigating Workplace Differences

The transition into the British workplace was one of new experiences. I learned a great deal in wok place etiquette and British culture. It was a difficult transition and there were times when I was so confused and unsure of what the appropriate thing was. I was the only American in my office and the workers all understood, but they didn’t offer much leniency in my cultural learning curve. Kelly examines the transition to the international education system, but I argue that my transition in the workplace had similar themes of confusion. As explained in Kelly, “Students face the natural difficulties posed by a new environment causing a period of disorientation, insecurity and incomprehension that may last for weeks, months or even longer.”[2] I came to understand and appreciate the customs, such as making tea for the office and talking about the ridiculous royal family, but it was a constant redefinition of my established norms from previous American internships.

Beginning with my interview, I realized how informal yet productive British work culture is. The interview also featured a tour of the office and I observed that all four employees, though they have different positions of hierarchy, all have an office in the same room. I was given a desk to sit at literally right next to the highest-ranking employee of the office. This surprised and impressed me because of expectation of office in the States where the highest position is on the highest floor. This linear office structure allows for more conversations and constructive feedback. I appreciated the accessibility of the employees and quickly learned to listen to their cross conversations to learn more about the organization.

The Writers' Guild Executive Council 2013, image from website
The Writers’ Guild Executive Council 2013, image from website

Once I started working in the office, I observed the use of what could be considered “explicit” language in the States. Employees used harsher language and coarse words when frustrated or excited.  They even warned me that they swore more than Americans in the office. At first I thought this was inappropriate, but then I realized that this is how they voice emotion. It is a way to let out feelings in a way that differs from the passive aggressive nature of some American workers.  Even though I understand and accept this, I still don’t think I ever got used to it. But the experiences helped me adapt to a new working environment.

Hard Skills and Take Always

My favorite part of the internship involved my work on their weekly email newsletter. Called the E-Bulletin, it is a comprehensive list of workshops, events, and a spotlight on the upcoming work of members. I helped compile and edit the information that goes into the newsletter. I love how I had the opportunity to contribute to a document that circulates to every member.

Interning at the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain was an extremely rewarding process of learning and growth. It exposed me to a different side of professional writing, one that is more business and behind the scenes. I am learned some of the rules of the industry while also developing my understanding of trade unions. I am studying professional writing and rhetoric at Elon University, so this internship couples nicely with my studies. It gave me a more comprehensive view of professional writing. Not only will I know how to be a professional writer, but will also know the business side of the work. This will hopefully give me a competitive edge in the job market.

Connection to my Major and Academics

For example, I saw many parallels between my work at the Guild and my studies of Professional Writing and Rhetoric at Elon. I wrote the following blog post relating my studies and academics to the internship. (Notice the British English!!)

“First of all, I have picked up on many important writing tips, but one in particular was highly emphasised at the Guild. This idea is that names must be spelled correctly. It is essential in the world of professional writing that the first and last name of an author is correct. The name of a writer is their brand, as it is the bridge of association built between reader and writer.  In my professional writing classes we discuss the idea of creating an image or a brand for oneself. In class it centred on design choices such as font or colours, but essentially it starts with the name. This acquisition of ethos can be achieved by genuinely good work being available to the public. The audience then begins to associate positive reactions to work with the author. The name therefore is the brand that gives the author credibility and recognisability. If the name is spelled wrong, the author does not have the brand correlation and audience understanding.  I talked about this with my supervisor, Anne, and we discussed this idea of creating a brand. She explained how a few years ago an intern misspelled a name of an important writer in a document to the public. The writer was very frustrated and it looked unprofessional for the Writers’ Guild. ”

Conclusion

I think the following journal entry about the internship sums up my experiences and academic growth. It explains both the cultural competence and the writing knowledge. I think I grew as a professional writer, but most importantly as a participant of cross-cultural communication. As explained in Jackson, Jane, I picked up “Critical Cultural Awareness” where I am able to evaluate practices and perspectives in both London culture and American culture.[3] I picked up on rituals and traditions, such as swearing and the office set up and adapted and thrived in the new environment.

“As the internship is drawing to a close, I am only just starting to realize my transformation into a global citizen. I find that I am developing hard and soft skill, such as writing and professional experiences. The other day my supervisor gave me the task of phoning theatres, because she said my phone skills have improved and they are very professional. It was great to hear this because it made me more aware of my changing cultural competence. I was able to pick up on some nuisances and values that have given me so many transferable skills. I think this internship has given me more self-confidence and helped me define my identity of a global citizen through my negotiation of differences.”

Interning at the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain was an experience of skill development and personal growth. It gave me more confidence in the professional environment and affirmed my passion for writing. I thoroughly enjoyed the work with my organization as they gave me a broader knowledge of the British workplace. I took the transferable skills acquired and bought them back to my studies and future jobs.

[1] Philip Kelly and Yvonne Moogan, “Culture Shock and Higher Education Performance: Implications for Teaching,” Higher Education Quarterly 66 (2012): 24.

[2] Philip Kelly and Yvonne Moogan, “Culture Shock and Higher Education Performance: Implications for Teaching,” Higher Education Quarterly 66 (2012): 27. (Accessed January 22, 2014)

[3] Jane Jackson, “Assessing Intercultural Learning through Introspective Accounts,” The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad 11, no. 1 (August 2005): 166, (accessed January 22, 2014).

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